As Congress mulls changes to an outdated law intended to protect electronic privacy, a group of law enforcement officers is lobbying for a provision that would erode privacy by requiring that text messages be saved and stored for at least two years. According to CNET, police and prosecutors’ groups say they have increasingly come to rely on text messages as evidence in criminal cases, and they are vying for a mandated storage period in amendments to the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act now being considered:
[T]he Senate Judiciary committee … approved sweeping amendments to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act last week. Unlike earlier drafts, the latest one veers in a very privacy-protective direction by requiring police to obtain a warrant to read the contents of e-mail messages; the SMS push by law enforcement appears to be a way to make sure it includes one of their priorities too.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the law enforcement proposal is to store the contents of SMS messages, or only the metadata such as the sender and receiver phone numbers associated with the messages. Either way, it’s a heap of data: Forrester Research reports that more than 2 trillion SMS messages were sent in the U.S. last year, over 6 billion SMS messages a day.
Among the groups urging the mandate are the Mayor Cities Police Chiefs Association, the National District Attorneys’ Association, the National Sheriffs’ Association, and the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies. These agencies are not alone in vying for more data collection and retention. The Department of Justice last year called for laws requiring Internet providers to retain data. But the American Civil Liberties Union’s Christopher Calabrese points out that any such proposal certainly doesn’t belong in discussions of reform of the law intended to protect electronic privacy.
Evidence suggests that wireless carriers have a range of evolving policies on retaining text messages, from no retention at all to 180 days. Most companies, however, appear not to have policies that messages be stored for a time period even close to two years. A spokesman for U.S. Cellular told CNET that data is stored for just 3-5 days, due to the volume of the content.
Both Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney support throwing out due process (warrants) in cases where national security is viewed to be at risk — a policy first put in place by Republican President George W. Bush (with bipartisan support from America’s two ruling parties) in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
As Kade Ellis ofPrivacy SOS and the ACLUreported, a security expert says that everyone who was at Occupy Wall Street had their cell phone surveyed by the NYPD. “[T]he identity of that cell phone has been logged, and everybody who was at that demonstration, whether they were arrested, not arrested, whether their photos were ID’d, whether an informant pointed them out, it’s known they were there anyway. This is routine,” private investigator Steven Rambam says in a video talk.
He continued, “[C]ell phones are now the little snitch in your pocket. Cell phones tell me where you are, what you do, who you talk to, everybody you associate with.”
Americans’ personal privacy is being crushed by the rise of a four-headed corporate-state surveillance system. The four “heads” are: federal government agencies; state and local law enforcement entities; telecoms, web sites & Internet “apps” companies; and private data aggregators (sometimes referred to as commercial data warehouses).
Shoddy legal reasoning was used in a decision that bucks the Fourth Amendment.
In the summer of 2006, agents of the Drug Enforcement Agencyused GPS tracking technology to locate drug courier Melvin Skinner’s prepaid phone, ultimately seizing more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana from Skinner’s mobile home. The judges on the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit then apparently smoked all of it before issuing their ruling inUnited States v. Skinnerthis week, because the opinion approving DEA’s use of GPS technology in this case is easily one of the most muddled examples of legal reasoning I’ve ever encountered—a surreal potpourri of factual misunderstandings, inapt analogies, sloppy and selective appeals to precedent, and logical leaps worthy of Nijinsky.
“They’re pulling together all the data about virtually every U.S. citizen in the country … and assembling that information,” Binney explained. “So government is accumulating that kind of information about every individual person and it’s a very dangerous process.” He estimated that something like 1.6 billion logs have been processed since 2001.
The advent ofPolice Tapeis designed to counter a practice an increasing number of civilians have encountered over the past few years: those who videotape or photograph police officers performing routine stops and other official acts are frequently arrested or disciplined. Evidently, many officers are all in favor of increased surveillance as long as it isn’t turned on them.
The information represents the first time data have been collected nationally on the frequency of cell surveillance by law enforcement. The volume of the requests reported by the carriers — which most likely involve several million subscribers — surprised even some officials who have closely followed the growth of cell surveillance.
“The system shall be provided with a Network Management System that permits remote interrogation and control of the equipment for the purposes of adjustment, diagnostics, and alarms,” the specifications note. Also—for shutting it down when people protest.
“That’s the kind of stuff that happens in places like Egypt, where Mubarak did it to put down the protests, and Tunisia, where the dictator did it to put down protests. That should not be happening here in the United States.”
Law enforcement tracking of cellphones, once the province mainly of federal agents, has become a powerful and widely used surveillance tool for local police officials, with hundreds of departments, large and small, often using it aggressively with little or no court oversight, documents show.
This is scary because Carrier IQ has recently been found to be factory-installed on most major Android smartphones. It allegedly can read your texts, record your calls and spy on app usage while reporting back to “HQ”…it was assumed HQ would be the phone companies, however - not Quantico.